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State to provide oversight to Blair County CYF as it struggles with case and reporting backlogs

 FILE - 2020 picture of the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg, which houses the Blair County Children, Youth and Families office.
Cole Cullen
/
WPSU
FILE - 2020 picture of the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg, which houses the Blair County Children, Youth and Families office.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services says it is providing oversight for the Blair County Children, Youth and Families office because it is not meeting state regulations and is struggling with a major backlog of cases.

DHS says Blair County CYF office has an “extraordinary and unprecedented volume of uncompleted and delinquent reports.” Because of that, DHS is sending an operations manager to provide oversight and improve operations.

Blair County commissioner Laura Burke said the county’s CYF office is struggling with a severe staffing shortage.

“It's actually better than it was, which is when this kind of backlog of cases developed. At one point we only had five caseworkers and that situation went on for a period of months,” Burke said.

Burke said there are currently 15 case workers. The county’s budget allocates for 36 case workers.

Burke said this staff shortage doesn’t just affect reports to the state. It also leads to longer wait times for children in need.

“We are trying to respond to the kids who are most at risk of harm. We are trying to respond to those cases and prioritize those cases, which I think is a sound decision,” Burke said. “The cases with a response time that's longer or may not may not seem like there's as much risk based on the information we receive initially, those cases are having to wait, because we have an influx of serious cases that we have to respond to immediately.”

The Blair County CYF is operating on its fourth provisional license, which is a temporary license for counties that are inadequately supporting child welfare services. DHS issued the first provisional license to Blair County CYF in May 2022.

Burke said state regulations only allow up to four provisional licenses. She said it’s unclear what will happen if the current license runs out and the office still isn’t in compliance with regulations. Burke said she’s hopeful the new operations manager from the state will help improve procedures.

Sydney Roach